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In the early days of Alberta’s history, industrial real estate projects were relatively small as compared to today. At the turn of the century, the industrial developments of Alberta’s larger urban centres, namely Calgary and Edmonton, consisted of small brick or wooden warehouses in the core of the city, and production facilities like sawmills, brickyards, coal mines, and sandstone quarries. In Edmonton, these industries were located along the river valley, until a flood in 1915 wiped out the industrial developments. Calgary also had its share of developments along their river valley; many sandstone quarries were built along the Bow River. After the great fire of 1886, the city started to build with sandstone rather than wood.

Today, industrial developments in the cities are concentrated in large blocks called industrial parks, like Shepard Industrial area in south-east Calgary. Large-scale petrochemical developments can also be found in Alberta’s cities. While Calgary has many head offices for major oil companies, many of the major oil refineries are in and around Edmonton, especially at Refinery Row east of Edmonton.  

The architectural features of industrial real estate are usually dull as industrial developments are built to optimize functionality. However, industrial buildings can sometimes be appreciated from a historical perspective. Many of Edmonton’s old warehouses, a series of brick buildings, still stand in the Jasper Avenue area and have been designated historic landmarks. The Canada Packers’ Chimney Stack, a red-brick chimney just off Fort Road in Edmonton, remains today and is a lone monument symbolizing the once bustling industrial area of PackingtA Canada Packers Plant in Edmonton, 1939.own.

Investment in industrial real estate is big business in Alberta, especially in rural parts of the province. The province’s vast rural lands are often eyed by investors for large scale developments. Unfortunately, this means that valuable agricultural land is often used for industrial development that, in turn, often pollutes the land. The oil sands are such an example. Of Alberta’s vast oil sands deposits (about 140,000 square kilometers), 3,450 square kilometers can be mined from the surface. The surface mining of oil sands is particularly damaging to the environment and, while oil sands producers are now required by law to return the land to its natural state after ceasing their operations, the damage done by disrupting animal habitats and consuming great amounts of fresh water cannot be undone. So, while industrial real estate developers and investors in Alberta do have the potential to make great profits, they also face specific challenges in weighing profit-margins and the environmental impacts of their investment and development decisions.


Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “Land Use.” Canada’s Oil Sands: A Different Conversation. Retrieved August 27, 2008 from www.canadasoilsands.ca - Land Use

Herzog, Lawrence. “When the North Saskatchewan Floods.” Real Estate Weekly. June 30, 2005.

Keller, James. “The Sandstone City.” Gauntlet. November 21, 2002. Retrieved August 27, 2008 from gauntlet.ucalgary.ca - Sandstone City

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